This was a weekend I will never forget!
After months of preparation, it was hard to believe that the Emerald Enduro 2017 was finally here, and it was tougher, more grueling and every bit as exciting as the previous two years had been here in County Wicklow. Six awesome, challenging stages, tough climbs, tight transition times and an unbelievable turnout of supporters, made this an unforgettable race that will be hard to beat. The crowds turned out in their droves, erupting whenever riders passed, creating an unforgettable atmosphere that was mind-blowing! There is no doubt in my mind that the Irish supporters are by far the best in the world!! Without being biased : )
With the heatwave that swept the country the week leading up to the event, you would be forgiven to think for a moment that we were going to be a 'third time lucky' and in for a dry race. This was definitely not the case!! Teased with amazing hot weather on Friday, the first day of practice, we were treated to four amazing dry, dusty, loamy stages. However, torrential rain all day Saturday, made for a huge contrast in conditions and Friday's practice was almost a distant memory! The downpour turned the once dry, dusty tracks into a wrath of wet, exposed slippy roots, deep ruts, slick rock gardens that had barely any grip, deep gullies and stodgy mud that caked our bikes. It was a test of riders sheer skill, strength, stamina that got you through the day as well as a 'no fear' commitment when attacking the technical sections that even the top guys and girls struggled with.
The Lead up to the Race
I spent the day on Thursday getting everything ready for the weekend. In a big race like this, there is always a huge amount of organisation to do and was key in ensuring that I would have as little stress as possible over the weekend. The main things that needed to be done were:
1. Bike Prep
I spent hours giving my Transition Patrol a full valet, ensuring it was in showroom condition and in perfect working order. I had left it in with the lads at The Bike Rack Dublin the week before for a full check over and a brake bleed so I knew it was mint. Tyre choice was a big factor today as dry weather was forecast with potential rain on Saturday. I decided to play it by ear and go with my usual tough, high grip WTB Vigilante on the front but changed my rear tyre to a fast rolling, tough Trailboss on the rear. After the rain on Friday night however, I changed over to a tough, high grip WTB Vigilante on the rear for maximum grip! These tyres performed superbly on the greasy stages and are a tyre I have always had so much confidence in.
2. Gear & Food
Making sure I had all my kit organised for the weekend and a set of kit ready for each day. This year I am extremely lucky to be sponsored by ION Bike who have kitted me out with everything I need for the season. Their gear is not only really nice and fits so well, their attention to detail is definitely unique and pretty damn cool! Flow MTB supplied my FOX teamkit which I was keeping fresh for race day : )
I made sure my OLFI Action Camera was fully charged and ready for action! This was one thing I always use in practice so I can watch over the footage the night before a race to learn the tracks.
As fueling is so important when racing, and especially in such a tough weekend as this was, I had to ensure that not only had I all my meals prepped in advance for each day but my diet leading up to the race was clean and smart as this is equally as important. Prepping like this means more time to rest and recover at the end of the day. Thanks to Austin Rhatigan PT for his coaching and advice on fueling. I had everything I needed for each day, with meals cooked and ready to be reheated when I got home.....up there for thinkin' down there for dancin' : )
The format was simple, practice day one - Stages 1,2,3 and 4. Practice day two - Stage 5 and 6.
Friday, day one, was a scorcher of a day and the tracks were mint. It was tough in the heat, especially for a ginger! I got through the day great, had a blast on each of the stages and felt strong and fast. Day two, Saturday, was a different kettle of fish. With rain forecast, we weren't quite prepared for the torrential downpour that was to come. There was no let up with the rain all day either so the tracks were completely different and some sections almost unrecognizable.
This was the newly built stage and was one that, in the wet, exposed completely different challenges to the rider. Dropping straight into the stage, I was feeling confident and rode well through the greasy track, over the two rock slabs and down to the next corner. It was here at the rock drop that I crashed, taking an over the bars losing valuable seconds. I picked myself up and really went for it for the rest of the stage. However, another crash at the very tricky tight turn down a steep wet bank onto the fire-road, lost me more time and with crooked bars I had to get off the bike to straighten them before continuing onto the finish point. I felt so dissapointed with this run, finishing 29th, my worst stage, I was determined to ride clean with no off's in the next stage. Talking to other riders along the transition who had just finished stage 2, assured me that everyone had a bad run on Stage 1 and that the rest of the stages have a lot more grip. This was reassuring!
Stage 2 was last year's stage 1. I was looking forward to this one as there are some wooded sections where you can really pick up speed and have a blast on. I rode better on this stage but didn't manage to have a fully clean run! Catching up with the rider in front, I knew I was going fairly well, but with such a stacked field of awesome riders, I still only managed a 25th in this stage.
This was the one that I was hoping to really nail! Starting up on the big rock, this was the second biggest spectator viewing point as it was a very technical rock section and one that the crowds love as it really tested riders skills and bravery! This is where the Patrol really performed and was absolutely solid in the technical sections. Thanks to my good friend Mateja for catching my run down the GREASY rocks! The crowds were just insane, it was such an absolute adrenalin rush and was amazing to experience this kind of support. The roars, heckling, cheering, it was just something else! The rest of the stage went pretty well for me, I kept it pretty much clean til the end with maybe one little slip up. With a 22nd position in this stage, things were starting to get better!!
At this point, I was starting to feel fatigue setting in. With so little time to rest between each stage, it was a case of finishing a stage and getting straight back up the hill climb to the next. I felt sorry for anyone who had a mechanical or a bad stage run as even without this, we were under pressure to get to the next stage on time. I didn't stop at the food stop until the transition to the final stage, as luckily I had enough water and supplies to keep me going throughout the day.
The stage went well, I don't remember much about this one but I do remember it being really greasy through the tight trees at the bottom section and having to do alot of foot out cornering! With a 25th position I reckon I could have pushed harder.
After a brief lunchstop where I could only stomach a protein bar, put some oil on my chain and caught up with a few people, it was back up the hill for the final two stages of the day. I was feeling it at this point, the constant pedaling with no let up and physically not being able to eat meant that I reached stage 5 feeling pretty whacked. I got to the top, composed myself, and took on some carbohydrate drink. It was a slow start in the mud, but once I got to the steep rocky section it was the massive roars from the crowds that got me going and I had a super clean run down the steep rock garden, railed into the left-hander and sent it over the ski-jump to the roars of the crowds....it was insane!!! I nailed this stage, totally clean run and really pushed it to finish with my best run in 19th position. Now I had just one more climb back up the hill to do and to tackle the now famous 'Carnage Corner' on the final stage - Emerald Express.
Being the last climb of a very tough day, I was very glad to be at the start line at this point. We had been going non-stop for six hours at this point, had tackled the hill six times with bikes caked in thick, gloopy mud and now it was the much loved (and hated) carnage corner to get down. I had practiced this before, just not in these conditions so when I got to it, it was completely unrecognisable! The crowds here were so loud, so crazy, it was hard to focus on the task at hand! I got down the tough greasy rock garden well but lost the front wheel just before carnage corner and slid out. I pointed the front wheel into the turn but somehow lost control and smashed into the tree where there were supporters roaring and ooohing : ) A little winded and shook, I took one look at the next drop and had to walk it. I have never had to walk this section before, and knew it well, but after the hit I took, and the change in conditions, I think I made a wise decision! I hoped back on the bike but struggled to clip my left foot back in so I was a little slow on the next bit. Finding my flow again, I finished the stage as best I could and finished in 21st position.
Finally there! Dropping down into the race village was a proud moment. Just finishing the race was an accomplishment in itself, so along with everyone else, I was so relieved and in to be one piece. Finishing in 11th position last year, I had hoped to do better than my position of 22nd but it was a much bigger field of women with 45 racing as well as much tougher conditions. An amazing experience, definitely up there with my top two toughest ever races, it has taken me days to come down from the 'high'. Another massive achievement from Niall Davis, Biking.ie and everyone who made it happen. Well done to everyone who competed and all the first-timers.
Massive thanks to my sponsors for their continued support and encouragement!
My team - Flow MTB
WTB, ION BIKE, OLFI, The Bike Rack Dublin, Transition Bikes, KaliProtectives
A last minute decision to race certainly paid off this weekend!
Having weeks ago deciding that racing so close to the Enduro World Series was a bad idea as the risk of injury, as well as fatigue, was too high, for some reason on Thursday I changed my mind. I hadn't had much time on the bike the week leading up to it and as a result, I was feeling sluggish. There's nothing like racing to kickstart both mind and body into action so I decided to go with it.
Saturday practice started off well with the sun out splitting the stones. The tracks were bone dry and super fast! We got through Stage One, Two and halfway down Three, it was as if the sky literally burst and the rain came pelting down. We all tried to take shelter under the trees but it was so heavy, we got soaked to the skin and the rain was just relentless. After about twenty minutes or so, we rode the rest of the stage in the rain which was WILD and headed back to the van, soaked to the core and freezing!
After a quick drying off, we headed down to the lovely coastal town of Newcastle, based at the foot of the Slieve Donard mountain. Such a pretty town, I couldn't stop taking photos! After a good feed in the local and a walk around, we headed back to the campsite to watch some video footage from my OLFI action camera, put some tunes on and prepared everything for race day.
As a result, we ended up riding stages 4 and 5 blind on race day, which added to the fun and craziness of it all! I had an absolute blast of a race! Stormed into second just 23 seconds off the win with a time of 21:29 and blazed through five awesome stages! Racing against the one and only Meave Baxter was tough but the best woman won! Absolutely gunning for next weekend now!
Massive thanks to The Bike Rack Dublin for having the Transition Patrol in mint condition as always! To Glyn and Cat O'Brien and the Vitus First Tracks Race Division team for such a brilliant race, Donard definitely lived up to its name for having some of the best enduro tracks in Ireland.
Great video edit by Harry Thompson on the race. I managed to get a feature at 38seconds where you will see my Rockshox Lyrik forks doing their thang!
Setting out my goals for 2017 back in September, the Irish Gravity Enduro Series was top on my list of races to podium and race well in. Performing well on home turf, to me, is much more important than any international race, and its when I have the most fun!
Preparing for this race had its ups and downs. I was very lucky to have two weeks off leading up to it, which meant that I could really ramp up my training as well as get cracking on that very long 'to do' list which is always a weight off the shoulders. Working and training full-time is always a juggling act, and definitely some things like family and friends take a back seat with me when I'm in full swing. Its only when the holiday time comes, that I really get to catch up with people and everyday stuff, which makes me feel very guilty about sometimes especially as I am not a professional racer. I'm sure some people find it hard to understand why one would devote so much time and energy to being an amateur but to me, its what makes me tick, drives me every day and keeps me working on myself like no other sport ever has.
So, knowing I had this race report to write this evening and feeling that post-race fatigue and general lethargy, I began to ask myself questions on my way home from work this evening....Why do I love racing so much? Why do I want to always do well? Why is it so important to me? And what do I ACTUALLY want from it? The answers that came to me were all very simply, I just want to get better and I want to be the best possible version of me and to never feel like I didn't give it 100%.
I guess no matter how I perform in a race, whether good or bad, I always have a strong feeling that I can do better, be a better bike handler, be smoother, be faster, fitter, stronger, fuel better, train better. I have very distinct memories of having this feeling and this drive from a very young age when I played basketball. It has stayed with me throughout my life in every sport I have ever played, and mountain biking is no exception. And its not a feeling of wanting to be 'Number 1', I've never felt like that or had that desire, it's more a case of a burning desire and drive to be the best that I can be, to feel like I am really reaching my potential and to never have regrets that I didn't give it my all. I think its human nature to feel that way about a lot of things in life, for me it just happens to be in sport, and for the past four and a half years, mountain biking has been my passion. It's there in everybody, it just comes down to whether or not you're willing to put the effort in to achieving it. I don't think I have ever felt that I could stop learning, there's just no end to the learning curve, if you want it bad enough. And so its in racing, that I get this amazing feeling of sheer exhaustion and euphoria that can only be felt after a race run! not to mention the high you're on all weekend from meeting everyone and catching that contagious happy vibe that just puts your race nerves at ease....until you get to the start line of the first stage! .....
So getting back to my prep for this race, the first week of my holidays were great, I was training smart, eating smart and sleeping great. The second week however, was a little different. I only got out on the bike on the Monday of that week and for the rest of it it was a different type of playtime, this time on a SUP board down in Enniscrone, Sligo. Feeling like it was a much needed break from the norm, it did me a lot of good, but I came back feeling fluey and spent the next few days lying low and just resting up. By Friday I was feeling back to my normal self again and decided to hit the gym. Probably not the best idea the day before a race weekend, but I felt like my body needed a kickstart and lifting heavy weights and low reps wasnt going to fatigue me too much....I was slightly wrong on this, the next day, although feeling as strong, my joints and muscles ached and were a little fatigued. Foam rolling, a hot bath and cold shower after the days practice was key to sorting this out and I spent the rest of the evening watching video footage of my practice runs from my Olfi.
For me, its always the climb up to the first stage that those race nerves really start to kick in. I get the whole 'jelly legs' feeling and if I'm bad, my mouth goes really dry. I end up drinking all my water, which is no wonder I always have a tendency to need the toilet right at this moment, which is never ideal considering I'm stuck up a mountain, but as a half-hippy 'vanlifer' this is minor. Once the first stage is over, I usually find my stride and start to relax a little.
This weekend was no different. Stage 1 felt okay but it was my worst stage time across all five. I settled into my stride afterwards and won the next stage. I dug really deep on Stage 3, never letting up on the pedalling, rode aggressively and kept it clean to pick up a decent time. After the long stage 3, we had a quick lunchstop and headed back up to crack on to the final two stages. I felt a bit of fatigue kicking in on the legs during Stage 4 and wasn't as clean on this stage as I had been on the previous two but still managed a decent time. I hit Stage 5 with all guns blazing, kept it clean apart from one little slid out and pushed hard right to the end. I was 0.4 seconds off first! So tight!
I was finished by 1.30pm so had the rest of the day to chill at the van chatting to people along the way, then back to the race village to wait for the pro men to finish and the podiums to commence. I had felt great on the bike today and the Transition was just a absolute joy to ride, especially on the many fast sections we were treated to. The Biking.ie crew put on a cracker of an event, they just seem to get better each year, no wonder it was a sell out.
With the podiums ready to go, I hear Leah is in and that I am just 13 seconds off the win and finished 97th out of 314 riders. It was a bitter sweet moment : ) Delighted to be so close to little pinner Leah Maunsell, but gutted to be so close to the win too! All the same, I was just so happy to come in second in such a stacked field of over 20 women, the best turnout there has ever been to an Enduro race in Ireland. Testament to the efforts that are being put in by so many people to get more women biking.
Massive thank you to Niall Davis and the Biking.ie crew for such a super race weekend, to Adrian van der Lee for the awesome photos, to my sponsors Flow MTB, WTB, Transition Bikes, ION, Kali Protectives, OLFI camera and The Bike Rack Dublin for really helping me through all these races. It makes such a difference to my overall performance to have top class kit and bike build at these races.
Serious well done to everyone who raced, to the 'first-timers' and hoping a speedy recovery to all those who picked up a few injuries in those moments of shredliness.... you know who you are ; )
Till next race! Gotta keep on truckin!
A dry race!!
The second round of the Polygon Grassroots Enduro took place in Killaloe, County Clare on Sunday. A grassroots enduro mountain bike race series, run by local mountain bike clubs in Ireland, is very much as challenging and technical as the National Enduro competitions around the country. The format is different to the regular Enduros as its blind racing, so no practice day, with three timed stages that riders can attempt as many times as they wish in the allocated time. Most riders do each stage twice, which is exactly what I did.
Heading off early on Sunday morning with my good friend Will Powderly, we picked up the two young ones, (Elite Mens' winner and Pyga Rider Gavin O'Connell and 17 year old Iosac Coleman) who were patiently waiting for us like two hippy hitchhikers on the side of the road. It was straight into the general banter and bike-talk, while we traveled in comfort in Will's motorhome, which he hopes to retire in someday : )
With a short coffee stop on the way, and Will's wonderful driving skills, we arrived in the beautiful village of Killaloe in just two hours.
I picked up my new Transition Carbon Patrol from The Bike Rack Dublin on Friday and went on its maiden voyage on Saturday, the day before the race. I was really excited about my first race on this awesome bike and getting into my snazzy new FlowMTB FOX teamkit! I literally found my flow immediately on the Patrol and had so much fun opening up on the bike.
After spending a short while registering and catching up with mates, many of whom I hadn't seen since last season, we headed up the climb to give stage 3 a crack. Hearing that this was a freshly built stage, I decided that I would tackle this one first before it got torn up. The bike felt super fast, and it felt great just letting it go flat out, pushing it to its limits! The only mistake I made was not getting used to the new cleats for my new ION Rascal shoes that I hadn't quite positioned right, and spent the first stage trying to get clipped back in while rolling down steep, rooty sections unclipped! Recipe for disaster! Thankfully I was able to go back and attempt it again after some readjusting of my cleats.
I did all stages twice, with my second attempt being my best runs.
Stage 1 was a pedally stage that had fast chutes and open sections that the bike just wanted to go. Stage 2 and 3 were much more technical with lots of roots and offcamber sections, rock gardens and some really nice jumps thrown into the mix. The lads at LMBC did a seriously great job on these trails and after the success of the race there last year, it was no wonder that this round sold out in under an hour.
After five straight hours on the bike, and with the last push up the transition, the tiredness had started to kick in. I got to the final stage of the day bang on 4pm, just at the cut off, and raced all the way into 2nd place on the podium!
Delighted with how the whole day went, and how the new bike felt, we headed back home in the camper full of the joys of life : ) A few photos down at the lake, we said our goodbyes, until next time!
Well done to all the LMBC crew, bikingdirty, the marshalls and photographers- especially my old pals from Galway MTB Andy and Kian Bichard - who put on a really well organised and seriously fun race. Already planning my next trip down west!
Massive THANK YOU to Al Maxwell at the Bike Rack Dublin for having my bike ready for me in time for this race. To FlowMTB for kitting my out in this super stylish gear (definitely makes you go faster ; ) and to WTB for their support this year.
Racing up North is always exciting as the trails are completely unknown to most of us Southerners! It was my first time to ever visit Lumpers, which is crazy as it took just over an hour to get there from Wicklow. Bellurgan Park in Co Louth, is a private woodland in the heart of the Cooley mountains, just a stones throw away from the trails at Lumpers. It was the perfect venue for Glyn O'Brien and his crew from First Tracks, to give us five timed stages, consisting of natural single track, as well as loose, muddy, technical trails, which were mostly gravity orientated. The lap including the transitions and stages was roughly 20km in total so it was very relaxed, just the way I like it!
I had planned to camp at the race village in the van for the weekend, but when I realised how close it was, a lift up with Al Maxwell from the Bike Rack and gunner Gavin O'Connell, was a much more entertaining option, and just made a lot more sense. That and coming home for a good nights kip in my own bed!
Arriving at 10am, we had the whole day ahead of us to practice the five stages and get our lines dialled. However, with the rain over the past few days, the once dry, loamy trails, were now transformed into slippy, bike-clogging trails that really tested me. It was the type of conditions that you only really ever get to ride at these events. A real test of riders skill and ballsiness! With 300 riders on the same muddy tracks, it really begins to expose the roots, rocks and holes and so commitment, line choice and staying loose was key to doing well this weekend.
With practice done and dusted after about 4 hours on the bikes, it was time to get back to the van, give the bikes their first round of washing, have a quick bite to eat and get on the road to do it all again tomorrow! I was feeling ok, but not how I had hoped to feel by the end of day one. With a lack of practice riding in these conditions, I always feel its a real weakness of mine, as I am a much more conservative rider in this type of heavy wet mud. Just staying on the bike, maintaining flow through the rough parts and pedal like a beast on the pedally sections to make up for lost time was my main aim.
We were so lucky with the weather, the sun decided to come out for the day and by the time we got to the final stage, the shclompy sections had dried up quite a bit and gave us a lot more grip on the trails.
I was feeling fresh and ready to go, but just as I was about to head over to the tent to clock in, my shoe lace broke!! I couldnt believe it! I blamed my mate Gav who was sitting in the van with the same random problem with his shoe! Seriously what were the chances of this happening! However, the ever reliable and simple cable-tie (a must for every mountain bikers backpack) came to the rescue and panic subsided.
With the mud caked onto the bikes, I was very glad I brought my portable bike wash with me! And it wasn't just the bike that needed a hose down!
Stage 1, was awful for me. I had a messy start and things didn't improve. It seemed like everyone else had a similar experience so I didn't feel so bad! Stage 2 was a lot better and I rode much more to my capabilities and finished it smiling - always a good sign.
Stages 3,4 and 5 were all better than stage 1 but I made way too many mistakes to catch up. I did my best to pedal hard on the pedally sections like I had planned, and at times I rode really well but it just wasnt enough for me and in the end I finished 3rd. Reflecting on the race, and with my tendancies to be very self-critical, I felt that ultimately my fitness is not where it needs to be and this really was a kick up the rear to get my diet in check. No matter how hard you train, if your diet isnt clean 80% of the time, then you are not reaping the benefits of your hard graft. For me, I have a great diet the majority of the time, but with my very sweet tooth, ive yet to break the sugar addiction! With Enduro racing, fitness is KEY. And the key to fitness, I believe, is diet.
So, I have just 7 weeks to go until the biggest and most important race of the season - Round 4 of the Enduro World Series in Ireland. My goal is to be at the top of my game for this so, its game on!
Massive well done to Vitus First Tracks for putting on a brilliant first round of the series. The turnout was excellent, with a stacked field of top riders. Really looking forward to Round #2 in
Donard in just a few weeks, what better way to prepare for the biggy!!
A massive thank you to WTB for sponsoring me this season. This weekend I ran a Convict on the front and Vigilante on the rear, a super combination for these conditions.
And my new team FLOWMTB! Thank you so much for your support! I am so looking forward to racing in the new kit next weekend, cant wait : ) www.flowmtb.co.uk
Next stop......Killaloe, Co.Clare for Round #2 of the Grassroots Enduro. Race season is well and truely ON.
Polygon Grassroots Enduro Series Round #1 - Bike Park Ireland
This weekend I headed down to Bike Park Ireland to race the first round of the Polygon Grassroots Enduro Series. Selling out in minutes, and with a waiting list of over 100 riders, this was one race I was really excited about! Not only was it to be my first race of the season, but my old club, Galway MTB, were running this round so I knew it was going to be a knockout! They certainly did not disappoint.
The format of this race series is very different to the regular Enduro series. Similar to the Welsh Gravity Enduro Series, it takes the format of three stages which are raced blind i.e. no practice the day before, with each stage ridden as many times as you wish. It's a great format as it works for people who can only get one day over the weekend to race, rather than the usual two day event of most Enduro’s.
I spent all day Saturday getting my bike in perfect working order, with a little help from friends : ) A new Reverb dropper seat-post, change of brake pads, gear cable, new bottom bracket bearings, brand spanking new WTB Convict Tyre on the front, a WTB Vigilante on the rear and a good clean, the black beauty was in prime condition for racing. Knowing that my bike was mint, gave me an enormous sense of calm and confidence leading into the race.
The rest of the day was spent preparing my meals for race day, packing my kit (two full sets in case of bad weather) and packed up the van. Asleep by 10, I was out the door by 7am, with my pre-prepared banana pancake in hand and coffee in the other, I set off on the two hour journey to Tipperary.
Arriving at the race village by 9, there was already a great buzz about the place and the it was filling up quickly with lots of familiar faces milling around the place! After a quick change into my race kit, I was up to registration and putting on my race plate in no time. On the bikes by 10.15 and off we went on the transition climb up the hill to hit Stage 1.
So here’s how I got on….
Stage 1 - This was a great stage to warm up on as it was the fast and flowy Blue run of the bike park, but with a few surprises thrown in for good measure! I felt great on this stage and knocked 6 seconds off my time on my second attempt, even after almost wiping out both marshall and timing pole at the end - sorry Andy : )
Stage 2 - This was pretty much the new Black run at the park. With the wet conditions, this stage turned from great to bloody awesome! If you touched your brakes on this one it was only going to lead to a wipe out! By far my favorite stage of the day, I managed to shave 4 seconds off my time on my second attempt.
Stage 3 - This is where things went slightly downhill! I decided to do one run of this, stop for lunch, then head back up in the afternoon. In hindsight, with the conditions as bad as they were, I would have been better off riding this stage early in the day as it had become really muddy and the bike getting so clogged up. My first attempt, I made the mistake of listening to others and chose to run up the big climb in the middle of the stage. This lost me valuable time, so after lunch, (and a complete new change of clothes!) on my second attempt, I pedaled up the steep climb during the stage no bother and rode well but fairly conservative. I decided to head up for a third attempt, but at this stage, any gains I had made with nailing the climb and the rest of the technical bits, I lost when I totally wiped out (and ate dirt) at the last turn onto the grass, which at this stage had claimed many other riders, and ended up having to run with the bike to the timer. This, along with the worsened conditions, I lost valuable seconds, and my first attempt turned out to be my best time, even though I didn't ride as well. Lesson learned.
After an absolutely savage days racing and having the craic, it was time for a cuppa tea and some downtime. I caught up with Owen Franssen from Emerald MTB website to chat about racing and life as a privateer.
Next up it was podium time. I was really happy to come away with 2nd and an overall result of 25th out of 145 riders. This was a really nice boost of confidence for me to start out the season with. Huge congrats to Leah Mansaul for taking the win and to Lorraine O'Sullivan for coming 3rd.
A massive well done to Galway MTB, Bike Park Ireland and Biking Dirty for such an awesome event! The bar has been set lads! Finally, a massive thank you to my sponsors FlowMTB for their support and to WTB who are keeping me stocked up this season, the Convict did an insane job of keeping me upright all day!
It was brilliant to see new faces on the race scene too! With a whole new batch of women taking to the sport, we're starting to see a great surge in women's mountain biking in Ireland.
Looking forward to seeing more new faces at Round #2 in Killaloe in four weeks time!
Till next time....keep 'er lit xx
Bitta yoga before dropping into Stage 5 'Top of the World' ....sure why not ha! What a sick place to be🤘Can't believe how lucky I am to be here
With just 3 days of rest ahead, it's back on the bike for Round 4 of the EWS in Italy 🇮🇹 Really looking forward to racing in La Thuile again, it's been too long! #ews
Had an awesome day riding with Ewen from IMBikemag yesterday. Spent the day practicing Stages 4,5 & 6 which are incredible stages. Probably the best riding in the world!
Aspen, Colorado.....I'm having to pinch myself each day to see if I am dreaming!
So it's just sinking in that I'm actually in America (childhood dream) and have a permanent grin on my face, a bit like all the locals do. And for the first time I saw tumbleweed, yep, just like the cartoon and cowboy movie tumbleweed, which I was highly amused by while I sat on the airport shuttle bus to pick up our all-American SUV. Ah the Grand Dodge, you could sleep in this thing, it's huge, automatic, has lots of cool techy features and is definitely a car I will never ...afford in this lifetime!
I'm staying in a very posh apartment in the gorgeous ski town of Snowmass, with Bex and Matt, two fellow EWS racers. We're just metres from where the EWS race village will be set up this week, oh yeh, and Richie Rude is living next door!! We will be spying on him to see what this giant eats to make him so fast!
So day one was spent stocking up on food for the week, an afternoon catching up on some sleep, a wee bike ride up the mountain and a BBQ meat feast on our balcony. Feeling like I'd just stepped into an American sitcom this morning, we wandered around the town of Aspen drinking Starbucks, ordering enormous pancakes laden with maple syrup and greeted by super friendly waiters who made me feel like we'd known each other for years!
So far, I feel like I am well and truly living the American Dream, just need to get some Duff beer next 😬🇺🇸 Its going swell 🤓 Tomorrow we shall ride!
So, after a week of awesome riding, Thursday was upon us and we were straight into our first day of practice. It was the same format as the previous round in Italy, six stages raced over two days with two days of practice. It was an amazing four days, riding awesome trails, hanging out with all the top riders in the world and going back to our 'rad pad' for a swim in the pool to finish off each day.
It was a seriously stacked field of women and I knew that I would be really up against it. My goal of achieving top 20 overall was now looking doubtful after my 25th position in La Thuile so I knew that I had to race smart and race hard to achieve my goal. In a field of 44 finishers, racing was really tight. I ended up finishing in 33rd position. I had a massive crash off the big drop on stage 6 which was disastrous as I had to be stretchered off and brought to hospital by ambulance. This was by far the worst crash Ive had to date but I was extremely lucky to come out with just massive bruising on my hip and arm. I was off the bike for 10 days but the good news was that I and the bike were still in one piece!!
I am so unbelievably grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to Aspen and had such a brilliant experience riding here. Getting to experience the altitude, getting loose on this unfamiliar terrain, hanging out with this bunch, (top picture) and just about ending up in one piece at the end of it all! A Massive thank you to all the Enduro World Series medics who got me down the mountain safely and to hospital so quickly, I can't thank these guys enough. Thankfully scans all clear and I'm ok, saved by my Sweet Protection fullface helmet and a bit of luck. Let's hope il be back riding in a few days up in Whistler 🤘
Alpe D’huez Day 11 – 20
It had been exactly a year since I last stayed in Alpe D’huez where I had competed in the Mega Avalanche Cup. After having such a brilliant week at the Mega last year, myself and my friends made a pact that we would be back again the following year and so the planning and preparation began in January. T-shirts proclaiming our top three priorities of last year were made – Beer, Wifi, Bikes : ) My two weeks of living in the van were now done for a while as I had an apartment share with three friends. Although I love vanlife, it really was nice to have the comfort of a shower and toilet facilities! This is the one hardship of vanlife I reckon!
The next day was spent just chilling and working on the bikes. Change of tyres, brake bleeds, cable changes, it was nice to get the chance to give the bike and body some tlc. That evening, I met up with the gang who had just arrived from Dublin for the week. We spent the next two days practicing the Mega run and the qualifier run from the top of the glacier right down to where it would finish in Allemond. The weather was perfect and the track was awesome with clearly a lot of work done on them. The bike was running smooth and after a decision made to get new brakes, a swift delivery from Chainreactioncycles the next day of Shimano Saint brakes and new rotors, I was riding these trails with a whole new level of confidence! I couldn’t believe the difference a decent set of brakes had made to my riding. I no longer needed to pull the brakes for long, a quick bite and my speed was scrubbed, allowing me to maintain my speed and be smoother on the bike. Better brakes to go faster, now there’s a juxtaposition right there!
After riding from Monday to Wednesday, I took Thursday off to rest and tend to my bike, ensuring that I had everything ready for the Qualifying run the next morning.
Up at 5.30am to get the 6am lift, it was a very early start but I was feeling really good, excited about the race and the adrenaline nerves soon kicked in.
The womens race started at 9.30. We took the first cable car ,hen had a short transition on the bike to the final cable car which brought us up the start of the qualifying run at 2200m the top you were able to see snowcapped mountains for miles and I took a walk over the snow to look down on the track below which looked awesome. In no time at all, I was on the start line at the front, the music started to play the usual start song 666 and we were given the 1 minute flag. I could feel the adrenaline running through my legs at this point, which gave me that jellylike feeling and that butterfly feeling in my stomach. The 10 second flag went up and then suddenly, before the 10 seconds were up, the tape was down and we were off. As I was expecting the full 10 seconds to run, I wasn’t on the ball and a few got in front of me immediately, causing me to get caught behind a bunch at the next corner. I rode as best I could down the shaley switch-backs, down towards the rock slab where there was a small section of snow. Where everyone was going straight on, I took a line to the left, which was faster but then got caught behind two riders on top of the rock who had come to a halt. Getting past them, I focused on getting speed through the slushy snow and made up time and places on the singletrack as I sprinted for as long as I could. I maintained my speed from then on, feeling great on the rocky technical sections and sprinting on the pedally singletrack. As this was the qualifying run, it was much shorter than the Main race run but a lot more intense. Half an hour of intense riding at full throttle, right down to the race village in Alpe d’huez. At the last section, I caught up with four guys who were in the race before us, losing a bit of time behind them as it was difficult to pass on the singletrack. I eventually got passed them all and put everything I had into the last part, sprinting to the finishline into the smiling faces of all my friends! I was knackered but loved every single minute of it! I was delighted to hear that I had come 6th overall, a big improvement on my 11th position the year before.
No beer reward just yet, we had the main race the next day and it was going to be a very early start. We hung out in the race village for a while until we had fully recovered and had some lunch that was provided. Then back up to the lifts to wash the bikes and to the apartment to chill out and get ready to do it all again tomorrow!
After doing my best to get a good breakfast of porraige, scrambled egg and avocado into me at the early hours of 5.30am, I was back on the lift to the top of the glacier, all set for the big event. This was it, I was determined to hold my position of 6th or even go for 5th, it was a case of being quick of the startline, no crashes and pacing myself in this hour long decent.
We were all up at the top at 3200m by 7am and had a two and a half hour wait ahead of us. They get all 2000 riders up to the top of the startline and everyone goes off in their wave, ebikes category first, then women. The slope had been piste-bashed the night before and was glistening in the morning sun, reminding me of an ice-rink. It was a black ski run afterall……I can imagine every rider has asked themselves at this point if they are insane! It really does look worse than it actually is, and in no time I found myself lining up at the startline amonst fifty other women in fullface helmets and goggles, smiling and chatting nervously but with an air of excitement and anticipation. The 10 second sign went up and this time I was ready. I was off, one foot out with my ass back, gently feathering the brakes as I picked up speed. I had a good run, managing to stay on the bike while girls around me were falling like dominoes. I got to the first big corner and took it way too wide that I had to slow down and got caught in a tangle of two riders down. Back up on the bike and this time I tore down, absolutely loving the speed and amazed by the grip I had. I was soon off the snow and onto the rocky section of singletrack. Catching two riders here, I had to come to a halt on the most technical part of the rock as they had slowed right down, not good as you really need momentum for getting down technical sections. I lost my flow and had a nasty over-the-bars. The girls passed me as I was down and so once I was back up, I was determined to catch them up but also felt that I needed to ride a bit more cautiously. I worked my way to 6th position in the end, sprinting hard whenever I could and riding smooth through the woods. It was a fantastic run but I felt that I could have done better, so there is always next year!
Massive thanks to Chain Reaction Cycles for sorting me out for the race with such quick turnaround. To VitusBikes, WTB, Sweet Protection and OLFI Action Camera.
Irish Female Enduro Racer Flow MTB Team Rider